Data from: On the possible role of nonreproductive traits for the evolution of unisexuality: life‐history variation among males, females, and hermaphrodites in Opuntia robusta (Cactaceae)
del Castillo, Rafael F.; Trujillo, Sonia; Trujillo-Argueta, Sonia (2019), Data from: On the possible role of nonreproductive traits for the evolution of unisexuality: life‐history variation among males, females, and hermaphrodites in Opuntia robusta (Cactaceae), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k658bh2
In angiosperms, dioecy has arisen in 871–5,000 independent events, distributed in approximately 43% of the flowering families. The reproductive superiority of unisexuals has been the favorite explanation for the evolution of separate sexes. However, in several instances, the observed reproductive performance of unisexuals, if any, does not seem to compensate for the loss of one of the sex functions. The involvement of fitness components not directly associated with reproduction is a plausible hypothesis that has received little attention. Life‐history traits recently recognized as predictors of plant performance were compared among males, females, and hermaphrodites of a rare trioecious Opuntia robusta population in the field, using the cladode as the study unit. Cladode mortality by domestic herbivores was common and higher in females and hermaphrodites than in males. Males, females, or both displayed lower shrinkage and higher rates of survival, growth, and reproductive frequency than hermaphrodites. Unisexuals simultaneously outperformed hermaphrodites in demographic traits known to compete for common limiting resources, such as the acceleration of reproductive maturation (progenesis) and survival. A meta‐analysis combining the outcomes of each of the analyzed life‐history traits revealed a tendency of males (d++ = 1.03) and females (d++ = 0.93) to outperform hermaphrodites in presumably costly demographic options. Clonality is induced by human or domestic animal plant sectioning; and males and females highly exceeded hermaphrodites in their clonality potential by a factor of 8.3 and 5.3, respectively. The performances of unisexuals in the analyzed life‐history traits may enhance their reproductive potential in the long run and their clonality potential and could explain the observed increase of unisexuality in the population. Life‐history traits can be crucial for the evolution of unisexuality, but their impact appears to be habitat specific and may involve broad ontogenetic changes.